David Hine: Comics, Manga, & More! (Mania.com)

By:JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Date: Friday, November 10, 2006

I got into the indy comics scene late, so I never heard of David Hine until a few years ago when he began working for the stateside offices of Marvel Comics. In a short space of time there were a few Marvel miniseries: Daredevil Redemption, Son of M., the 198 and Colossus: Bloodline and Hine was also working on the monthly District X. It was hard not to notice this energetic, imaginative comics creator, and we began corresponding via e-mail. A short time later, I convinced him to begin a column about his experiences in the comics industry as both a writer and artist, Yakkity Yak for THE PULSE. Since then, he's gotten a few more projects that have kept him busy writing and drawing comics and solidified his place in today's comics industry. Right now for Marvel, he's currently writing a What If ...? story and a miniseries featuring the Inhumans, Silent War. One of his first projects, Strange Embrace, which he both wrote and drew, is going to be colorized and re-released through Image Comics. Hine's also working on the monthly Spawn series for Image Comics. He's also drawing a few adventures that will appear in the popular Elephantman series. As well as his work on traditional comic books, Hine is getting ready for his first Original English Language manga series, Poison Candy to hit from TOKYOPOP. All in all, not bad for someone who left comics in 1995 and didn't think he'd return ....

MANIA: For those of our readers who might not know much about Mr. David Hine, please tell us a little about yourself sir ...

DAVID HINE:
Since I was a kid I spent an unwholesome amount of time buried in fantasy worlds. Comic books, novels, TV and movies. I went through a long period when I read nothing but science fiction and I have always been a big fan of horror, from the classics like Poe and Lovecraft, through Ray Bradbury to Stephen King and Clive Barker. When I wasn't reading I was writing short stories and then later I got heavily into comics. I was seeing the groundbreaking work of artists like Steranko, Eisner, Wrightson and Adams and that made me want to learn to draw. I guess the writing came naturally but the art was something I had to really work at.

Perversely it was the art that I focused on. I should probably have gone into writing a lot earlier, but it was the artists who had all the attention in comics until quite recently. So for years I struggled to make a living as an artist. I began in comics by inking. I had a clean style of brushwork that was popular at the time. I could make pencilers look slick and for years I made a decent living as an inker for Marvel UK. I gradually got more work doing full art, pencils, inks and colors. This was all for British publishers. Fleetway, who published 2000AD launched a number of comics in the eighties including Revolver and Crisis. Then there were Warrior, Deadline, Blast, Knockabout, Heartbreak Hotel, Strips. The list was endless. Independent comics sprung up and died at an incredible rate. I usually managed to get one or two strips in each of them before they went under but there was a feeling that we were always on the edge of a breakthrough that never quite happened.

Meanwhile most of the British artists and writers were tempted away to the USA. I never made that jump and in the end it was looking like a dead end. I was working ludicrously long hours AD I've never been fast at drawing. When my son was born in 1995 I finally took the decision to move out of comics and concentrated on commercial illustration for the next nine years. That meant better money and shorter hours but looking back it was deadly dull.

In 1993, shortly before my extended sabbatical, I produced a four-issue series of comics called Strange Embrace. This was essentially a graphic novel that I serialized in quarterly 48-page books. It was published by Tundra at a time when the comics bubble was about to burst. When Tundra's UK office closed, the final issue of Strange Embrace was the very last book to go to press. In fact the phone call had come through from the States to shut everything down before it went to the printers but the guys at Atomeka knew it would have been devastating for me not to have the series completed so they told the US office that the book was already at the printers and biked the art over there as soon as they were off the phone.

So the book came out, but sales were abysmal. No one was buying independent black-and-white comics any more. I was convinced that there was no future for me as a comics creator. It was nearly ten years later that I got a call from Richard Starkings at Active Images, offering to finally collect Strange Embrace as a trade paperback. That collection was what got me noticed by Marvel and I was tempted back into comics, this time as a writer, with two books for Marvel, District X and Daredevil Redemption.

After a few months I found I was enjoying the experience of script writing so much I made the decision to jump back in. It had to be make or break, so overnight I stopped taking illustration commissions to concentrate on the comics. It was tough for the first year, and I built up a lot of debts, but now it's been two and a half years since the first issue of District X appeared on the shelves and the work is still coming in regularly, so I'm finally starting to think of myself as a career writer.

MANIA: Well it sounds like you have good reason to. So when you were first approaching Marvel US or first had the chance to play in their universe, what was that like for you? Was working at one of the "Big Three" always the "prize" in your eyes?

HINE:
As a kid I guess that was my dream. Over the years I became less interested in superheroes and got into underground comics and then European comics through Metal Hurlant and A Suivre. I discovered the great artists Munoz, Tardi, Hermann, Pratt, Giraud, Loustal and dozens of others who approached comics as if they were novels, not serialized adolescent fantasies. So when I was approached by Marvel I was initially a bit cagey. The last time I had read Marvel Comics was in the nineties and the standard of writing then was absolutely appalling. The mainstream comics are so much better now. The dialogue, pacing, storytelling, characterization are all far better. It parallels the renaissance in TV scriptwriting. I'm still annoyed that the superhero sub genre is so pervasive. I wouldn't choose to write stories about men in tights (fishnet stockings and corsets maybe, but not tights).

Unfortunately that obsession persists so I've had to compromise along the way. What I try to do is tell good stories within the strictures of the superhero genre. My best work is less about the powers than the characters and situations. Daredevil Redemption for instance was a legal crime thriller. The story could have been told without Matt Murdock ever putting on the costume. Similarly District X had no costumed heroes and was more to do with mutation as a disability than about superpowers.

MANIA: How did it feel to have that first US Marvel Comic in your hands with your name on it? It was in one of the anthology books, right?

HINE:
Yes. The very first was X-Men Unlimited issue 2. That was a short prequel to District X. I was quite blasé about it until I actually saw the thing. Then I went weak at the knees and reverted to my teen fanboy persona. It really was the most gratifying experience I've had in a long while.

MANIA: When you first head about all the events Marvel had planned for the next few years - some of which you were a part of - Disassembled, Decimation, House of M, Civil War; as someone who was a fan of the industry, what did you think?

HINE:
I'm not a big fan of crossovers. Although they may boost sales in the short term I think they tend to alienate potential new readers and that's deadly for the business in the long term. The Marvel Universe is a complex set of modern myths and it's tough enough for a new reader to get into without the added complexity of the interlinked storylines.

Civil War has proven that you can create a buzz of excitement that will pull in new readers but I wonder how many of them will stay. The success of the movies has proved that the core characters and themes are strong enough to pull in a whole new generation but it's vital to give them stories that are accessible. The next few months and years will show whether Marvel has been able to build the interest into a solid ground base of new readers.

MANIA: When you had a chance to become a part of some of these events, how did it feel working on something that was sure to get attention from not just within but outside the normal comic book venues?

CIVIL WAR #1

HINE:
It's always good to get a big audience. I can't deny that. My only regret is that the biggest sales are not for the books that I consider my best work. The content of the marginal Civil War books is very much editorially driven, the plots dependent on what is happening in the core titles. I'm more comfortable with Son of M and Silent War. This is really a story that is developing around the Inhumans and because they don't have a monthly ongoing book I can take a lot more risks with them.

MANIA: Your work is eclectic. Do you try hard not to do the same thing twice or always be different even in the most conventional of stories?

HINE:
There are certain themes I return to over and over and a lot of visual motifs that I repeat. If you look closely, you'll often see similar scenes in different books, or at least scenes that echo what I'm doing in another book. An example of that is the way Ortega ill treats his son in District X, which reflects the relationship between Pietro and his daughter Luna in Son of M. Then there is a scene in a recent issue of Spawn where he puts Wanda's daughter, Cyan through a terrible ordeal. In all these scenes vulnerable children are in the hands of unstable but fundamentally decent adults. Obviously I'm saying something about the fragility of childhood and the fact that it's not necessarily the obvious predators who do the most damage.

Insects feature a lot too and mutation as mutilation or as disability. These kinds of repetition and self-referencing are deliberate, but I hope I'm not actually repeating myself ad nauseam. I try to come up with a new way to do each story, to create unique moments that will stay with the readers.

MANIA: When you're working in comics as a writer, who do you draw influences from? What are some of the things that inspire you the most to make your unique moments?

HINE:
I watch a lot of movies and read screenplays. I have a stack beside my desk that includes David Mamet, Sam Shepard, the Cohen Bothers, Quentin Tarantino and some English guys like Dennis Potter and Mike Leigh. I've become a big fan of Joss Whedon's TV shows, especially Buffy. I'm just starting to get into Lost and Sopranos. I tend to get into this stuff later than most people because I don't watch much TV. I wait for the DVDs and watch them in a very compressed period of time. It's great to get totally immersed in a series by watching a couple of episodes a day for months at a time. As for comics, I'm currently reading a lot of manga and anything by Bendis and Brubaker. Still love Jaime Hernandez' work on Love and Rockets.

I've just picked up Hermann's historically accurate Vlad the Impaler and Magasin General by Loisel and Tripp. Loisel is one of the most consistently brilliant artists in comics. I haven't had the time to read many novels recently but The Time Traveler's Wife probably influenced Son of M. I'm currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is yet another take on the Dracula legend. The rest of my reading right now include books on Chinese mythology, vampirism and the occult, Thuggee, Myths and Legends of India, the Legends of King Arthur, Frazer's The Golden Bough and a little gem I found in a second-hand book store called The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism which includes an account of the Flying Friar, recently popularized by Rich Johnston.

MANIA: Just as eclectic as your reading list are the upcoming projects you're working on: a Marvel, a What If ...? tale about Deadly Genesis, a six-part miniseries Silent War, Spawn and other projects. How do you decide, in an event like Ed Brubaker's Deadly Genesis, which part to stray off in and do the "What If ...?" about - especially when there were probably dozens of possibilities you could have come up with?

HINE:
With the Deadly Genesis series the thing that struck me most was Vulcan's hunger to be a hero. He was desperate to find acceptance and when Professor X offered him the chance to be an X-Man it was like offering food to starving man. Of course it all went horribly wrong in Brubaker's version. What interested me was to see what would happen If Vulcan got to follow his dream. In my version he becomes incredibly popular and ends up as a celebrity superstar. I hardly need to say that things still go horribly wrong in the end. It's the rot and corruption beneath the surface gloss that interests me.

I'm currently working on Silent War, a six-part series that follows up on the consequences of Son of M. Pietro stole the Mists of Terrigen, the heart of the Inhumans' culture and the source of their mutation. Son of M ended with Black Bolt declaring war on the USA. For the past few months we've been in the Cold War phase. Now things are about to hot up.

MANIA: A lot of the people I talk to love to get a chance to work on What If ...?. Just about everyone has a point in comics that they wonder, "well, what if that happened?" or "what if she got his powers?" or anything along those lines. What "What If ...?" question have you been dying to get a chance to tackle in Marvel Comics?

HINE:
I don't think there's much that hasn't been done with most of the major characters in the regular comics, let alone in the What if? books. I guess it would be cool to do a "What if M Day had killed off 95% of humans instead of mutants?" That would be interesting, to see how a small group of homo sapiens coped with living in a society where the vast majority are mutants.

MANIA: Were you a fan of the original run? Which issues stand out in your mind the most as being the most thought provoking or well-written?

HINE:
I don't think I ever read an issue of What If ...? And I avoided looking at any before I wrote the Deadly Genesis script because I really didn't want to be influenced by anything that was already out there. I did read "Wha huh?" The Bendis story "What if Stan Lee wrote Ultimate Spiderman" was hilarious.

MANIA: Who's collaborating with you on this What If ...? issue?

HINE:
I'm very pleased to be working with David Yardin. After our collaboration on the early issues of District X I've been desperate to work with David again but he has always been busy with other projects. This time he was available and I have no doubt that this is his best work ever. He has put a huge amount into every panel. I already knew how good he was at capturing the subtle nuances of character and emotions with his command of facial expressions and body language, but I also knew he's been itching to draw some full-on superhero action. That was something that was not happening in District X. This time though I've given him some great action scenes. His rendition of Vulcan and his team battling Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is a classic! And he's done a great two-page spread featuring dozens of X-characters with alternative costumes.

MANIA: Along with working on that story, you're also trying to bring more attention to the world of one of Image's staple characters, Spawn. What interested you in tackling this character?

HINE:
As I said above, I'm always interested in the corruption beneath the surface and Spawn is the (un)living personification of corruption of both body and soul. What is challenging is to show how the humanity of Al Simmons still survives the brutality and violence of Spawn's world. His undying love for Wanda is what brought him back from the dead and the only thing that keeps him going. The relationship with the forces of Heaven and Hell are endlessly fascinating. It's well established in the book that the two sides are equally corrupt and manipulative, using mankind for their own ends. Al Simmons, in the shape of Spawn is the man who stood up against them and has become a third force, beyond good and evil, a man who bows to no god or master. He is a wonderfully anarchic character and the book is open to endless explorations of mythology across all genres.

MANIA: For those who just know of Spawn from his animated series or the films, how might it, in the current comic series, be different from what one expects?

HINE:
I've never seen the animated series. I've seen the movie. Clown was good. The movie seemed to concentrate on the pyrotechnics to the detriment of characterization. The comic gets a lot deeper into relationships between the characters and we are also exploring all kinds of mythologies. Not only Biblical myths but Hinduism, folk tales and urban legends. We'll be doing more of that in the future, expanding into Chinese and maybe Icelandic mythology. The major difference with the current story is that in the past Spawn has always succeeded in averting Armageddon. He was raised as a Hellspawn to fight in the armies of Hell in the Final Conflict and rebelled against that role, walking a line between Heaven and Hell. At times he has appeared to turn his back on humanity, at other times he has been a force for justice with the emphasis on merciless retribution. With our current arc we've taken the bit between our teeth and gone hell for leather towards Armageddon. We want to head off in some totally new directions with the character, but before we do that we wanted to follow the previous plot lines to their logical conclusion and that means the utter destruction of the world. Which I guess is one way of making a fresh start. It has put a lot of pressure on us to fulfill the massive expectations we've generated for this story. I'm working on the final episodes now and I'm losing a lot of sleep over it.

MANIA: Why do you think this is an Image series and concept that has lasted continuously through the years when others that were introduced in the earliest days seem to have disappeared into the back issue bins?

HINE:
The concept is very appealing, a walking dead guy who has just about any superpowers he wants. He has this necroplasmic costume that can morph into chains and spikes or grow bloody great bazookas. He can blow stuff up just by looking at it. He can transform into bats or bugs. Chop his arms off, he'll grow new ones. He is everything kids and adults fantasize about. He isn't bothered by conscience and yet he's motivated by love and revenge. Somehow [Spawn creator] Todd McFarlane managed to distill the essence of every hero and anti-hero type into this one bad-ass character. He looks great, too, add the rotted, roasted body and the cool costume. It's the lack of rules that gives the book longevity. If we want to play around with the book, switch genres, change the costume, give Spawn new powers, we can do it and yet somehow the character still retains his integrity.

MANIA: What role does Spawn creator Todd McFarlane have in the production of these new issues? Do you have to go through him with your ideas and concepts? What's the creative process like?

HINE:
There is a lot of communication between everyone involved on this book, far more than on any project I've worked on. I send everything to Todd for approval but he is very tolerant of what I'm doing. We initially discussed long-term plans for the book and came up with a blueprint of where Todd wanted the book to go and it was very much in line with what I wanted to do.

Essentially Todd wants to move the book towards more mature themes and in particular to develop concepts of horror that work along similar lines to Asian cinema. Phil Tan and I are both into those kinds of movies too. That is something that will be coming up after the current arc is completed. Most of this arc was thrashed out in those initial talks. The way Man of Miracles developed into the MoM character, the Disciple, the Legion of Souls and the decision to deal head-on with the Apocalypse.

The creative process is one of constant interaction between me Todd, Phil and editor Brian Haberlin who is the most hands-on editor around, in that he is constantly available to talk (not always the case with editors) and is involved in the finished product as part of the coloring team. He oversees every aspect of the book's production. Phil and I talk regularly, e-mail every day and also are involved on a daily basis with the fans via the message board at Spawn.com. We even post the pencils and scripts for every issue as it's published. Todd and Phil also have a very close professional relationship with Todd mentoring Phil in every aspect of his art. I've watched Todd sit with Phil going over his pencils panel by panel and whatever people may say about Todd's commitment to comics, I can tell you his enthusiasm is undiminished.

MANIA: What's coming up for the series?

HINE:
We're winding up the Armageddon story over the next few issues, then we're going to do a series of shorter arcs and one-offs. I have a three-parter roughly drafted centered on an apartment building where the tenants are going quietly insane. It's a chance to show how sick human behavior can become when the normal social restraints have been removed. Imagine the worst possible thing you could do. Something so awful you couldn't bear to live with it. That's what I've tried to do with each of these characters. It's scary stuff. I like to set myself the challenge of writing stories that are going to make people look at me askance. When you're writing horror you should be able to get into the dark places that only crazy people normally go.

I'm also planning to do something on the fundamentalist Hell Houses. These are recreations of Hell in the form of fun houses that fundamentalists in the States are using to scare the crap out of their kids. They use live actors in the roles of abortionists, drug users and gays and show the eternal torments that are waiting for them. That one is going to be fun.

Further down the road I'm planning a major new storyline with new characters and situations. This will be an epic story constructed along the lines of a TV series. I like the way American TV has developed with series like Buffy, Lost, Sopranos, and so on. Each episode is a self-contained story that furthers the long-term plot. Then each season completes an arc that leads into the following season. Audiences have become so much more sophisticated in the way they follow these series. No one has a problem with jumping back

in time to explore backstory, or allowing big ellipses to jump ahead in the plot. We're seeing that style of scriptwriting more and more in comics now. It's nothing new. The Hernandez Brothers and Alan Moore always wrote with that kind of sophistication, but you're even seeing it on mainstream superhero comics now. Bendis did it a lot with Daredevil and made it the best book Marvel had published for a decade.

MANIA: You seem to have worked on a ton of mainstream projects in the past few years, does it ever surprise now that you're doing a lot of work in the mainstream when so many of your original projects were smaller independent works?

HINE:
Every day. I have regular guilt trips about working for the majors when the volume of product is forcing so much good independent stuff off the shelves.

I'd love to go off and do another independent project that I own and have absolute control over. There are two major problems. Money and time. I need to make a living and that means writing two or three books a month. Writing and drawing a series would be a full-time occupation. It's no good bringing out one issue a year. You have to meet deadlines, even if you're working on your own property and right now I just can't have that kind of commitment.

Maybe sometime in the future it will happen. Robert Kirkman has managed to find a balance between the mainstream and the indie work. Mark Millar and Warren Ellis manage it too. Even Brian Bendis is still doing Powers. So I guess I'm just too slow, or lazy.

MANIA: What were the goals you set for yourself when you first got into the comics industry?

HINE:
Just to be published. Then to be published and paid! I always wanted to produce my own graphic novels and retain ownership. I achieved that with Strange Embrace.

MANIA: How have your goals changed over the years?

HINE:
Long term the goal is the same, to produce my own graphic novels. On a day-to-day basis I aim to turn out the best possible script for each project I work on. Although some of the projects don't work out the way I hoped, I try to produce the most intelligent and entertaining stories I can possibly write within the limits I have been given. I'm also constantly trying to improve my craft, to master every aspect of plot and characterization, improve my scene setting and pacing, perfect the dialogue, choreograph action scenes. It's a never-ending process of observation and experimentation.

MANIA: When you have had success as a writer, why is it important for you to keep your artistic talents sharp and continue to draw things like Elephantman?

HINE:
I was blackmailed into it. When Richard Starkings asked me to contribute to the book I assumed he wanted me to write a script so I was happy to agree. Then the eight-page script arrived and the horrible truth dawned on me. Richard is determined to get me back to the drawing board to write and draw a follow-up to Strange Embrace so he wants me to keep my hand in. He's quite right of course, the best comics are usually auteur works. Eisner's Spirit, Spiegelman's Maus, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, everything by the Hernandez Brothers and Robert Crumb. There is an endless list of superb works by writer/artists. There aren't many classics that are produced by partnerships. Alan Moore is one of the few who can do it and I suspect that may be because his scripts pin down every detail of the visuals so although the results are stylistically very different, it's always Alan Moore's voice that dominates.

MANIA: How do you find the time to work on a handful of projects - in a handful of different jobs - each month?

HINE:
It's very tough. The past few months have been insane because there have been builders in my home and I've suffered constant interruptions. Some days I just grab my laptop and head for my local cafe to get some peace. I prefer to dedicate a week or two to each script exclusively but in practice that doesn't happen because there are always things to do on ongoing projects. At the moment I'm getting pages of art from David Yardin for "What If...?" most days I get a page or two from Phil Tan for Spawn, a huge batch of roughs for Poison Candy came in a week back and then I got the roughs for the whole of the first issue of Son of M from Roy Martinez. I go through roughs and make notes for most artists. David Yardin is an exception. He always goes straight to finished pencils but I swear I've never found a single fault in his interpretation of my scripts. The guy is an absolute perfectionist.

When the art for a book is finished there is the final pass at the script to do. The final issue of X-Men Civil War was put to bed a couple of weeks back. That was the most demanding project I've ever worked on for re-writes.

As well as scripts I have solicits to write or a re-write of a script that's waiting to go to an artist. Then there are requests for interviews to publicize up-coming projects, message boards to keep up with, and I'm usually pushing a couple of pitches for future projects. Right now on my "to do" list there's: break downs for Poison Candy Volume 2, Silent War Part 2, eight new covers for Strange Embrace and Spawn script AD URGENT!' Oh yeah and my monthly PULSE column Yakkity Yak column for you.

It's a question of juggling everything and staying relatively sane.

MANIA: That's always tough to do, but you do it with such grace. When you've been working on a lot of high profile projects, how does it feel to have some of your earliest work in Strange Embrace being reintroduced next year through Image in eight colorized parts?

HINE:
I still think Strange Embrace is my best work. Some of the dialogue is clunky and the art is sometimes a bit off but it was the one time I was expressing myself without an editor looking over my shoulder, without even thinking about an audience, just writing and drawing a story that had been growing in my head for years.

Although the original sales were abysmal the critical reception was amazing and it's the book that got me into both Marvel and Spawn so I guess I was doing something right.

I'm hoping this time around more people will buy it. It was conceived as a black-and-white book but Rob Steen's coloring has kept the mood perfectly. I'm a little worried about splitting each of the original episodes in two but I'm told that 48-page books just don't work economically, so that's a compromise I've had to make. I'm thinking of recommending people to wait a month so they can read two issues at once.

MANIA: For those who might just know your mainstream work, tell us about this Strange Embrace?

HINE:
It's a psychological horror story set partly in the present where a strange psychopath named Alex feeds off people's past like a psychic vampire. He becomes fixated on an old man who collects African art and whose wife committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. The man's past unfolds like a detective story as Alex gradually pieces together the events that led to a young woman being driven insane. The majority of the story is set in Edwardian times and we see events repeated from several points of view. Each re-telling reveals more of the horrific truth. It's been described as a psychosexual modern gothic among other things. The biggest influence was my love of nineteenth century literature and you can see elements of the Brontes, Poe, Wilkie Collins and Dickens. In The Slings and Arrows Comic Guide, Frank Plowright described it as "a study in malevolence and truly horrific obsession ..." I think that describes it pretty well.

MANIA: How long ago did you complete your work on Strange Embrace and why has it taken so long for it to be re-released?

HINE:
It was originally published in 1993. Active Images collected it in black-and-white trade paperback in 2003. It was pure luck that Richard Starkings was looking for existing under-exposed comics to collect in his Active Images Gold series of books. Without it I seriously doubt I would ever have gotten back into comics.

MANIA: Along with work in the mainstream comics industry, you're also working on an Original English Language (OEL) manga for TOKYOPOP. What interested you in exploring this style of storytelling?

HINE:
I adore manga. I first came across Japanese comics in their original editions in Japanese bookshops and a few early translations into French. I loved the cinematic feel to the storytelling. You could "read" a two-hundred-page comic in the original Japanese and still follow what was happening because the storytelling was so visual. The way scenes were stretched to allow the eye to move like a camera, picking out isolated detail or zooming to extreme close-ups of sweat drops or eyes. This was a whole new way of making comics and has been the biggest influence of recent years on Western comics. I'm really enjoying the luxury of being able to extend scenes, letting them play out to their natural length.

MANIA: With a title like Poison Candy, it doesn't sound like a cutesy story some might associate with most manga. What's the gist?

HINE:
Manga can be anything: horror, romance science fiction or serious social commentary. The cutesy stuff is just one side to Japanese comics. I see comments from comics fans who say they don't like manga. To me that's like saying I don't like comics or I don't like movies. Manga are collectively a medium, an art form, not a single genre or style. Poison Candy is a cross-genre science fiction/horror/soap opera/social comedy with sex and rock 'n' roll thrown in.

I originally conceived it as a children's novel aimed at 12-year-olds but it has ended up as a mature rated manga. I think the rating is going to be 16+.

The story centers on Sam Chance, who is diagnosed with South Korean Adolescent Retrovirus, an incurable disease that affects a small minority of teenagers. The virus does two things and it triggers a latent mutation so the victims develop extrasensory powers like telekinesis and telepathy, and then it kills you. Two groups are tracking down the SKAR kids, a billionaire philanthropist who offers the teenagers a potential cure, and a mysterious and deadly covert group of government operatives who are kidnapping the victims to study as potential weapons.

MANIA: How does it feel having an artist the caliber of Hanzo Steinbach from Midnight Opera working on illustrating your tale?

HINE:
Hanzo is perfect for this book. He draws like a real manga-ka. The guy has totally assimilated the manga style and storytelling. I wanted TOKYOPOP to drop the rest of our names and bill this book as being by Hanzo and Hine to see if we could pass for the real thing but no dice! Hanzo is totally into rock and roll as you'll know if you've seen Midnight Opera. His art is giving the book the feeling that I wanted to capture that period between childhood and adulthood when you feel like you're going to live forever and everything is possible.

MANIA: Poison Candy had to be delayed so he could finish the aforementioned project, is it frustrating for you to be expecting something out at a certain time and then have that project delayed or is it just par for the course?

HINE:
I've waited longer for this than anything I've ever been involved with. We could have found another artist but I wanted to work with Hanzo. It will be worth the wait

MANIA: What do you think of all the different types of comic books available now? It really does seem like a kid in a candy store with everything to choose from here ....

HINE:
There is certainly a far greater range of work than was ever available before but it stupefies me to see how superhero books continue to dominate the market. Can you imagine if in book publishing 90% of the top 100 books came from two publishers producing work solely for a niche market like Westerns or Romance? It would be unthinkable. And it doesn't happen in other countries. I have lived in France so I'm used to seeing a market for comics that is more like the book market. The American model just seems totally bizarre. The book trade may open things up over the coming years. I hope so.

But for now, if you want to make a living in comics you still better be prepared to work with pumped up muscles, silicone breasts and spandex.

MANIA: How do you think where you were born and raised colored the way you see life and approach things differently than if you were born in the States?

HINE:
Well, I was born in a small community in the South-West of England, a farming area, and we didn't move around much or travel on holiday, so my physical outlook on the world was incredibly limited as a child. There was also a feeling of living in a country that is no longer a great power. In fact the legacy of Empire makes most English people feel a little guilty about the country's position of relative wealth. There's a knowledge that we owe most of what we have to the exploitation of the former colonies. The USA by contrast seemed totally guiltless, stridently dominating the world as the last great superpower. I think that's changing a little after the events of the last few years. There's more introspection now. I'm not sure how much their background colors the way writers work but you can usually tell when you're reading the work of a British writer. Maybe we tend to concentrate more on the consequences and responsibilities of power. I would never confuse the work of Garth Ennis and Frank Miller for instance, although they both deal with extremes of violence and depravity.

I may be stretching a point here, but I know that a lot of British writers come from a working class background while all the Americans I meet are solidly middle-class. It's not something that is talked about much but I'm sure it affects the depiction of characters and situations. I wouldn't want to second guess their political leanings but there's a healthy whiff of socialism in writers like Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore and lots of others that makes their writing very appealing.

MANIA: Although this seems to be a pretty busy schedule, did we miss anything? Anything you'd like to plug?

HINE:
I think that covers it for now. There are a couple of other things bubbling under but as usual I couldn't possibly talk about them yet. Thanks!


David Hine's work can be seen in Spawn, Marvel's What If ...? and Elephantman. Look for his upcoming projects Silent War and Strange Embrace in the New Year.

Jennifer M. Contino is a lifelong comic book fan. You can read her work daily at www.comicon.com/pulse.